Reuters: Iran has said nothing so far to suggest it plans to suspend uranium enrichment, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday. By Arshad Mohammed
SHANNON (Reuters) – Iran has said nothing so far to suggest it plans to suspend uranium enrichment, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters as she flew to the Middle East, Rice said the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany might meet later this week to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
The Security Council has threatened to impose sanctions on Iran if it fails to suspend its enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce material for atomic weapons. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons.
The foreign ministers held a conference call over the weekend to discuss European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s efforts to coax Iran into suspending enrichment.
“I think it’s fair to say that we have not yet heard anything that suggests that the Iranians are going to suspend,” Rice told reporters, noting that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was recently quoted as rejecting any suspension.
“I believe that Javier Solana will probably check his sources one more time to see if there is anything more there,” she added. “We did have a discussion of the importance of remaining firm on (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1696, which means that if the Iranians don’t suspend, then we will go to the Security Council for sanctions.”
Even though Iran has failed to meet the Security Council’s demand that it suspend its nuclear activities by August 31, it is not certain that the major powers will now move to impose sanctions. Russia and China, which hold vetoes on the Council, both have had misgivings about the use of sanctions.
Rice spoke as she set off on a trip to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
She said it was possible the six nations — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — might meet later this week to discuss Iran but no decision has been taken.
Such a meeting could provide a venue to discuss possible sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials have said that these were likely, in the first instance, to focus on preventing Iran from acquiring “dual-use” items that can be used for civilian and military purposes.
Solana said on Thursday he had failed to reach a deal with the chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but said they would hold another round of talks soon.
Several Western diplomats who were briefed on Solana’s talks with Larijani last week said the Iranians were still refusing to commit to suspending their uranium enrichment program and said Larijani appeared to be trying to drag out talks with Solana.